How Lebanon should be reborn post-Hezbollah
Nothing lasts forever, and I instinctively believe that Iran’s bought-and-paid-for proxy that dominates every aspect of Lebanese politics and day-to-day life will soon be an irrelevant has-been. Hezbollah has sold itself as the people’s protector against Israeli aggressions, whereas it is the party that has incited hatred and wars.
Hezbollah pretends to have the wellbeing of all Lebanese, regardless of their faith or sect, to heart. But as we have seen time and time again, it does not hesitate in taking up arms on a sectarian basis during street clashes. It is the party of obstruction, always disputing presidential and prime ministerial candidates as well as Cabinet picks, to the extent that the country has often been left without a functioning government for months.
The fact is that Lebanon has become ungovernable. The last prime minister-designate, Mostafa Adib, resigned with an apology for his failure to form a new government over disagreements. Parliamentarian Fadi Saad has openly heaped blame on Hezbollah and its allies for the stagnant political process. “Hezbollah uses its weapons and the power it enjoys to intimidate the Lebanese and impose their will on them,” he said.
If Hezbollah did not exist, I predict peace between Lebanon and Israel would quickly blossom. The Lebanese and the Israelis share similar traits. Both peoples are fun-loving, family-oriented, social and entrepreneurial. They love to eat, and in many respects their cuisines are similar. On the other hand, the majority of Lebanese have nothing in common with Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah and his ring-kissing sycophants.
Moreover, the country’s traditional allies would shower it with aid during the kind of troubled times the Lebanese are currently enduring. And they would not hesitate to invest or encourage their citizens to vacation in one of the Arab world’s most sophisticated and diverse countries. I would be one of the first on the plane.
I know for a fact that many Arab and international leaderships are deeply upset by Lebanon’s economic and political downward spiral. However, as much as they would love to help the Lebanese weather one of the worst storms in their history, they are hesitant primarily because they do not want their cash being spent on Hezbollah’s weapons.
Put simply, although people blame incompetent and corrupt leadership for the nation’s woes, which admittedly does play a part, the elephant in the room that few prominent Lebanese are wary of pinpointing is an alien presence. Hezbollah’s cultish members are Lebanese in name only; their loyalties lie with Tehran, yet they have infiltrated all the corridors of power.
Once Hezbollah is rendered toothless when hopefully Nasrallah and his cronies will be made to pay for their crimes — including the assassination of Rafik Hariri, one of the finest prime ministers Lebanon has ever had — then the country’s political foundations must be entirely reconstructed, beginning with a new constitution.
The old confessional system inherited from France has been a dismal failure. In order for Lebanon to grow and prosper, presidents, prime ministers, parliamentary speakers and Cabinet members must be chosen according to their abilities and reputations, not their religion. Those governed by their sectarian affiliations must never be permitted to drag Lebanon back into the dark waters it is drowning in now.
The pillars of a great nation is its constitution, and Lebanon’s prior to the Taif Accord, planned to be a temporary solution to facilitate an end to the civil war, did no one any favors. Most of its clauses remained just words on paper. For instance, all Lebanese militias should have been disarmed, but in reality it was only applied to Christians and Druze, meaning that the application of the accord was selective. Hezbollah has since expanded its military capabilities, and the warlords did as they pleased.
The constitution in existence prior to Taif gave greater powers to the president, which is how it should be. No ship can function or travel safely with three captains, each with his own destination in mind. Historically, Christian presidents did not oppress people of other faiths; quite the opposite. Examples of fine stewardship are Fouad Shehab, Kamil Shamoun and Suleiman Frangieh. They did not distinguish between Christian, Muslim, Druze, etc. on their watch, and the rights of every sect was written in law.
When Lebanon experiences its rebirth, the state must act as the guarantor of citizens’ rights. There must be equal opportunities for all regardless of their religion, which will render obsolete the influence of sectarian leaders who hijack opportunities to buy the loyalties of people within their sphere.
This sectarian division of the pie has meant people have had little choice other than to stick to their own sectarian leaders, who promise to protect their rights and open doors to all kinds of opportunities.
The new constitution must be written in such a way that the people are freed from all and any religious or sectarian influences; in other words, there must be complete separation of religion enshrined in the constitutions of almost all of the planet’s democracies.
Citizens should be permitted to vote for their president, who has sole responsibility for forming a Cabinet of his own choosing. Parliamentary elections should be held so as to generate genuine public servants representative of their constituencies, not put in place to stuff their pockets while obeying the orders of their sectarian bosses who handed them those lofty positions out of self-interest.
The Lebanese would be wise to come up with a comprehensive plan to break Hezbollah’s grip — with or without the international community’s assistance.
Khalaf Ahmad Al-Habtoor
In order to remove the inherent injustices in the current electoral system, elections should be held according to the before-last election law, which permitted independents to win, whereas the current election law does not.
It is a sad state of affairs when the president of France is giving Lebanese politicians a dressing down with ultimatums to get their act together. Emmanuel Macron is without doubt well-intentioned, but it is ultimately up to the Lebanese to redesign their own future, and it is about time they did just that.
The Lebanese would be wise to come up with a comprehensive plan to break Hezbollah’s grip — with or without the international community’s assistance — and then once the country is able to breathe freedom’s air, a new political blueprint can be brought to life. As someone for whom Lebanon has always been dear, that day cannot come soon enough.
- Khalaf Ahmad Al-Habtoor is a prominent UAE businessman and public figure. He is renowned for his views on international political affairs, his philanthropic activity, and his efforts to promote peace. He has long acted as an unofficial ambassador for his country abroad.